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Old Van Nuys’ New Name Gets Mixed Reviews : Addresses: Some charge the secessionists with elitism. Others are unaware or don’t care that neighbors are now in Sherman Oaks.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the streets of Van Nuys and what once was Van Nuys, reactions to the announcement of yet another San Fernando Valley name change fell into three distinct categories Friday:

A) “I don’t care.”

B) “More money for me.”

C) “They changed the name??”

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One day after Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky declared that a 40-block section of southern Van Nuys will be officially absorbed by Sherman Oaks, some Van Nuys community leaders charged the secessionists with elitism. But many residents were either unaware of the change or did not care that their neighbors opted for the ostensibly more prestigious address.

Standing in the driveway of his house on Vesper Avenue, which remains in Van Nuys, it was clear Allan (Red) Jenman fit comfortably into category A.

“I’m not included, so I’m crushed,” he said, laughing with good-humored sarcasm. “Other than that, I personally don’t care.”

Jenman, who has lived in the Valley for all of his 70 years and in Van Nuys for 18, said he does not recall the days when the newly seceded portion of Van Nuys was called Sherman Oaks, as the secessionist residents maintain.

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Still he said of the name change: “It isn’t going to make any difference.”

For Rebecca Urias, who has lived in her house on Tobias Avenue in Van Nuys for only two weeks, the homey feel of her new neighborhood--regardless of the name--is a welcome change from the urban life of Santa Monica.

“Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, it doesn’t matter,” she said, holding her son, Christopher. “It’s a nice neighborhood. It’s quiet here. We hear the crickets at night.”

Debi Akin moved from Sherman Oaks to Van Nuys four months ago. She was unaware of the name change, and found it meaningless but not in the least offensive.

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“If they’re going to use all this taxpayers’ money to make the change, I think it’s stupid,” she said, holding her daughter, Zoey. But she added, “It doesn’t bother me at all.”

It does bother Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn.

“For the most part, people feel abandoned,” Schultz said. “Here are people who think the easiest way to solve those problems is to get a community name change,” he said of the former Van Nuys residents.

People should work together to rid the area of the problems that have given Van Nuys its declining reputation, rather than distancing themselves from it, Schultz said.

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Developer David Honda, past president of the Mid-San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce, which once was the Van Nuys Chamber of Commerce, said the move was “carving the nice sections out of Van Nuys.”

But proponents of the name change argue that the area was actually Sherman Oaks until 1963, when the Post Office instituted ZIP codes. Residents were confused because the deeds on some houses said Van Nuys while others for houses on the same street said Sherman Oaks.

Yaroslavsky said the decision to make the change for the 2,000 residents between Magnolia and Burbank boulevards was based on a detailed analysis of the situation. “There is a history to this area,” he said. “A history of association with Sherman Oaks and not Van Nuys.”

The change will clear up the confusion surrounding the area and help residents get mail quicker, he said.

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Schultz disagreed. “I don’t think the real issue was so much clearing up confusion as it was getting rid of the Van Nuys address and getting a Sherman Oaks address which is going to increase property values,” he said.

Residents of affluent Chandler Boulevard, now part of Sherman Oaks, bore him out. Money, not mail, was on their minds.

“I’m very pleased,” said Barbara Caretto, standing in her house on Chandler. “With a mere stroke of a legislative pen someone has increased my property value by about $20,000. Could I complain?”

Florence Later, who has lived in the area for 35 years, said she also expected property values to increase and welcomed the change.

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“Sherman Oaks has a better, more savory reputation,” Later said.

Standing in front of a vacant Van Nuys house on Cedros Avenue with an “Open House” sign in the yard, Realtor associate Robert Heinstedt likened the change to others that have occurred in the Valley recently.

“West Hills, North Hills, Valley Village and now Sherman Oaks,” he said. “A name change to try to latch on to more affluent, expensive areas.”

Some in the newly named area may see an appreciation in home values, Heinstedt said, but he questioned the sanity of it all.

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“I have a Mazda,” he said. “If I apply to have the name changed to a BMW does that make my car worth more money? That’s what they’re doing.”


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